Cooperative deformation in high-entropy alloys at ultralow temperatures

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Science Advances  27 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 13, eaax4002
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax4002


High-entropy alloys exhibit exceptional mechanical properties at cryogenic temperatures, due to the activation of twinning in addition to dislocation slip. The coexistence of multiple deformation pathways raises an important question regarding how individual deformation mechanisms compete or synergize during plastic deformation. Using in situ neutron diffraction, we demonstrate the interaction of a rich variety of deformation mechanisms in high-entropy alloys at 15 K, which began with dislocation slip, followed by stacking faults and twinning, before transitioning to inhomogeneous deformation by serrations. Quantitative analysis showed that the cooperation of these different deformation mechanisms led to extreme work hardening. The low stacking fault energy plus the stable face-centered cubic structure at ultralow temperatures, enabled by the high-entropy alloying, played a pivotal role bridging dislocation slip and serration. Insights from the in situ experiments point to the role of entropy in the design of structural materials with superior properties.

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